The political landscape in New Jersey is ripe for a historic shift this November. But a shift in New Jersey’s representation in Washington is not likely to happen because the New Jersey Republican Party is wholly unprepared for the opportunity. The nincompoops who lead the NJGOP gave up on the U.S. Senate race in January. They gave up on picking up seats in the Congressional Delegation in 2012 when the new congressional map was drawn.
According to a Fairleigh Dickinson Univeristy Public Mind Poll released this morning, President Barack Obama’s approval rating among New Jersey registered voters is a dismal 36%. 49%, including 21% of Democrats and 45% of Independents, disapprove of the President’s job performance. Senator Cory Booker is 8 points below the magic number of 50% that an incumbent needs to be comfortable in a reelection race. Those are the kind of numbers any opposition party/candidate would pray for 8 weeks before an election.
An August 6 Quinnipiac Poll gave Booker a 47% approval rating and 47% of the vote in a hypothetical match up with GOP nominee for U.S. Senate Jeff Bell. While the polls are not an apples to apples comparison, it is reasonable to conclude that Obama’s performance over the last 6 weeks is a drag on Booker.
But only 29% of the electorate say they will vote for Republican nominee for U.S. Senate Jeff Bell in today’s FDU poll. 27% say they don’t know who they will vote for, which means they don’t know anything about Bell. Like Booker, Bell had stronger results in the August Quinnipiac Poll. 37% told Quinnipiac that they would vote for Bell and 13% were undecided.
So, while today’s poll is not all good news for Bell, hopefully the closer than expected race with help Bell raise money to introduce himself to New Jersey voters and convince the independent Super PACs that helped Bell win the nomination spend to some money in New Jersey over the next eight weeks.. It is a long shot, but Booker can still be beat.
In his Publisher’s Message column on August 28, triCityNews publisher Dan Jacobson, a former Democratic State Assemblyman, told the story of his defeat for reelection in 1991. Both internal and independent polling had Jacobson and his running mate, John Villpiano, up by wide margins against their unknown Republican opponents. But both Jacobson and Villipiano were polling under 50%. It was a big Republican, anti-Governor Florio year. Former Asbury Park Police Chief Tom Smith and Atlantic Highlands Councilman Steve Corodemus were swept into office. Jacobson and Villipiano got the 42% and 48% of the vote the polls indicated they would get. The undecideds went with the wave. They were the wave.
That could happen this year, and sweep Bell into the Senate. It is not likely to happen, but it could. A better funded Republican nominee with greater name recognition would have been in a much better position, had the NJGOP been prepared for the opportunity.
If State Senators Mike Doherty, Joe Kryillos, and Tom Kean JR and Assemblymen Jon Bramnick and Jay Webber, all potential U.S. Senators, are not kicking themselves for listening to those who said Cory Booker was a rock star that could not be beat, they should be. For the money former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur is spending to defend the CD 3 seat being vacated by Jon Runyan for the GOP, he could have picked off Booker. Steve Lonegan’s anti-Obama message last fall in his race against Booker was poorly timed. The same message that made Lonegan sound like a radical kook last year would resonate with voters this fall. Lonegan might have won this year if he kept running for U.S. Senate, but he is more comfortable in the radical kook role than statesman role. Lonegan is the salmon of New Jersey politics. He swims against the current, shoots his load and and dies. If Geraldo Rivera had not made like Anthony Weiner after giving up on running for U.S. Senate last year, he could have been a contender against Booker this year.
Once again we have late season polls that show New Jersey is not necessary as blue as the NJGOP leadership thinks it is. The pills New Jersey’s top Republican talent should be taking are blue. Instead of seeing an opportunity in the fact that Lonegan came within 11 points of upsetting Booker last year, New Jersey’s better known or better funded Republicans passed on challenging Booker this year out of fear that they would not outperform Lonegan. No one has nominated anyone from the NJGOP for the Profiles in Courage Award.
If, like me, your disagree with Senator Booker that Barack Obama has the best ideas for moving our nation forward, please help Jeff Bell.